Lessons from the Deck: Mental Skills Training for Varying Ages in Competitive Youth Swimming

Michael Mosley, University of Denver, USA

Theme: Youth sport

Poster Number: 72

Program ID: POS-1

Presentation: October 3, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Culturally, “early and often” has become the standard principle for decisions made concerning youth sport participation. Coinciding with this trend, parents and coaches are seeking the proverbial competitive edge for athletes at unprecedentedly youthful ages. As sport and performance psychology services become more frequently requested in youth sports, the consultant is faced with new challenges in working with a demographic whose cognitive abilities are at varying stages of development (Piaget, 1963). For students entering the field, youth sports are often the primary training ground for the practical application of the concepts learned in class. As part of a master’s program in sport and performance psychology, three students immersed themselves as consultants into a competitive swim club consisting of over one hundred athletes. Our work has been with teams and individual swimmers, ranging in ages from 9 to 25. During this 17 month period of providing services and receiving the appropriate supervision, it has become apparent that mental skills training is far from a one size fits all endeavor. Psychological skills such as goal setting, self-talk, imagery, and relaxation have been implemented with some success throughout this organization. We have seen that athletes of all ages benefit from mental skills training, but perhaps more importantly, we have witnessed the advantageous impact on adolescents of being introduced to mental skills at a young age (Orlick, 1993). Over time, our approach has evolved with each age group to accommodate their cognitive differences. This poster describes the intervention adaptations made and lessons learned through consulting young adolescents and adults on the same mental skills, within the same organization across time. Particular emphasis is given to our direct experiences while incorporating edifications offered by current research.

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